The Shamima Begum legal proceedings are a culture clash and a timely warning.
The clash lies in the gulf between metropolitan and provincial Britain. The former’s take is audible, sophisticated and was always liable find a willing listener at some point in the courts.
At its core is the conviction that Begum is British – and that she should be tried here for any crimes she is alleged to have committed.
Those who hold it tend also to say that she was a child when she left the country to join ISIS; that she has renounced it, and that she is not a security risk.
The provincial view is less openly expressed, instinctively and reflexively held – and one which the courts won’t endorse.
It is that Begum betrayed her country when she travelled to support a terrorist group that seeks to destroy our way of life. She therefore has no human or other right to the citizenship that the Government removed.
That’s not to say that the Supreme Court will necessarily find in her favour when it considers Ministers’ appeal against yesterday’s ruling by the Court of Appeal.
Sajid Javid argued when as Home Secretary he removed Begum’s citizenship that she would not be left stateless, because she can claim Bangladeshi nationality through her parents.
The Court of Appeal ruled yesterday that she should not be sent to Bangladesh or Iraq, where she was involved with ISIS, because she might face ill treatment. You can imagine how that will go down in the Red Wall and elsewhere.
The Special Immigration Appeals Commission took a different view, and we will now have to see what the Supreme Court has to say.
Javid suggested yesterday that Begum is a threat to national security; that she is unlikely to be prosecuted in the courts if she is allowed back into Britain; that she will become a poster girl for Islamist extremism if this happens.
He also said that “the judgements and precedents set in this case could bind the hands of the Government in managing past and future cases”.
That some British citizens and others who also went to join ISIS have already returned here doesn’t mean that Javid is wrong. It isn’t hard to see how yesterday’s judgement has wider implications.
It’s claimed that appeals are now likely to be lauched on behalf of 30 British women and 60 British children detained by the Kurdish authorities in Syria.
All of which raises the question of what is happening to the former ISIS terrorists who have already re-entered the country.
Some will be subject to Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (Tpims) – one of which may be slapped on Begum if she returns here.
These are not watertight: readers may remember the case of Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed, who while disguised in a burka escaped the police tasked with monitoring him.
It’s tempting to believe that were the Human Rights Act to be recast and Britain’s membership of the ECHR revoked, judgements like yesterday’s wouldn’t be made.
The point can’t be proven one way or the other, but we suspect that any British court would be capable of making it whether we were signed up to the ECHR or not.
None the less, reforms to ensure that there is “a proper balance between the rights of individuals, our vital national security and effective government” would have an effect on the courts.
The words in quotes above are from the Conservative general election manifesto. We hope that they are acted upon. Where is the Constitution, Democracy & Rights Commission it promised “in our first year”?
At any rate, it is far from certain that Begum will actually return, whatever the Supreme Court decides. So her lamentable story has more chapters to come.
The timely warning is bound up with a point we made only two days ago: today’s papers cover not only Begum’s court case, but Russian espionage claims – that it tried to hack into our Coronavirus vaccine research.
The timing is doubtless connected with the impending publication of the report next week into claims that Russia interfered with the 2017 general election and the 2016 EU referendum.
Our argument was that government shouldn’t focus on the threat to our security from China to the exclusion of those from Russia and Islamist extremists – who, as Gerry Adams once said of the IRA, “haven’t gone away, you know”.